12:44 AM UTC
BOSTON — The Red Sox’s middle-infield picture became even more unclear Tuesday afternoon, when the club announced infielder Trevor Story underwent a successful internal bracing procedure of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Monday. Dr. Keith Meister performed the surgery at Texas Metroplex Institute in Arlington, Texas.
In a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said that Story began experiencing pain in the elbow while ramping up his throwing just before Christmas.
“We’re not ready to put a timetable on it yet,” Bloom said. “I certainly would not rule out a return sometime during 2023. But it’s also not something at this stage that we want to bank on. It’ll take how long it takes. We want to make sure he’s 100 percent. But certainly with this being the internal brace procedure and not a Tommy John [surgery], it does leave the door open for a return this season.”
In the first season of his six-year contract with Boston, Story was limited to 94 games after missing time in July with a right hand contusion and then in September with a left heel contusion. Though Story’s elbow didn’t land him on the injured list in 2022, the 30-year-old did have a stint on the IL due to right elbow inflammation while with the Rockies in ’21.
In addition to his injury history, a recent drop in velocity has raised flags around Story. After his move from shortstop to second base, Story’s average velocity on throws dipped from 79.1 mph in ’21 to 76.1 mph last season.
“Obviously recognizing that his throwing has not been what it was in the past, everything when we did the physical when we signed him looked good and he felt good throughout the season,” Bloom said. “This, what he experienced in this incident, was something new.”
Despite the velocity concerns, Story was the likely candidate to take over at shortstop after Boston lost Xander Bogaerts to the Padres via free agency this offseason. Bloom said that as Story ramped up his throwing, he was doing so in preparation to become the everyday shortstop.
“Until you see how the offseason played out, it was still an open question where we hadn’t set anything in stone,” Bloom said, “but he was preparing to play shortstop. And for him, that’s something that he was vocal with us about wanting to do.
“Obviously his hope was that if Xander left, it would be an opportunity that he would get, and that’s where his head was. Understanding he was always going to do whatever we thought was best for the team and there were certain ways the roster could come out where he’d be our second baseman. But his mindset was to prepare to play shortstop.”
Now, the Red Sox are left with two gaping holes in their infield after a last-place finish in the American League East in 2022.
So with Spring Training just over a month away, what does this news mean for the roster?
“It means there’s more to do,” Bloom said. “We already wanted to strengthen the middle of the field obviously, even when Trevor was healthy that was the case. We were fortunate that we had him and Kiké [Hernández] as good options that covered us in a number of different ways. Obviously Kiké can still do that, but it’s an area that we certainly want and need to add to.”
Minus Story, the players currently on the 40-man roster have combined for 112 career starts at shortstop:
Hernández and Arroyo remain options to fill in at the position, though shifting Hernández to the infield would require Boston to make an outfield addition. And Arroyo’s history of injuries raises concern.
Should Boston go the outside-hire route, six free-agent shortstops remain on the market, including José Iglesias — who played parts of four seasons with Boston, most recently in 2021.
“I would expect we’re going to add,” Bloom said. “Frankly, that was my expectation even before this. Whether that’s through free agency or trade, I don’t know yet what that looks like, who it is.
“Obviously, it’s something we were already actively discussing even before this. And now we’re a man down so we’re going to have to fortify ourselves further. Our expectation was always that in some way, shape or form we would have outside additions joining our position player group and so that’s still the case.”